Nanotechnology Now







Heifer International

Wikipedia Affiliate Button


DHgate

Home > Press > Nanosheet Catalyst Discovered to Sustainably Split Hydrogen from Water: A new low-cost non-noble electrocatalyst efficiently generates hydrogen gas for fuel

This magnified image from a transmission electron microscope reveals details of the unexpected nanosheet structure of the nickel-molybdenum-nitride catalyst, seen here as dark, straight lines.
This magnified image from a transmission electron microscope reveals details of the unexpected nanosheet structure of the nickel-molybdenum-nitride catalyst, seen here as dark, straight lines.

Abstract:
Hydrogen gas offers one of the most promising sustainable energy alternatives to limited fossil fuels. But traditional methods of producing pure hydrogen face significant challenges in unlocking its full potential, either by releasing harmful carbon dioxide into the atmosphere or requiring rare and expensive chemical elements such as platinum.

Nanosheet Catalyst Discovered to Sustainably Split Hydrogen from Water: A new low-cost non-noble electrocatalyst efficiently generates hydrogen gas for fuel

Upton, NY | Posted on May 9th, 2012

Now, scientists at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory have developed a new electrocatalyst that addresses one of these problems by generating hydrogen gas from water cleanly and with much more affordable materials. The novel form of catalytic nickel-molybdenum-nitride - described in a paper published online May 8, 2012 in the journal Angewandte Chemie International Edition - surprised scientists with its high-performing nanosheet structure, introducing a new model for effective hydrogen catalysis.

"We wanted to design an optimal catalyst with high activity and low costs that could generate hydrogen as a high-density, clean energy source," said Brookhaven Lab chemist Kotaro Sasaki, who first conceived the idea for this research. "We discovered this exciting compound that actually outperformed our expectations."

Goldilocks chemistry

Water provides an ideal source of pure hydrogen - abundant and free of harmful greenhouse gas byproducts. The electrolysis of water, or splitting water (H2O) into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2), requires external electricity and an efficient catalyst to break chemical bonds while shifting around protons and electrons. To justify the effort, the amount of energy put into the reaction must be as small as possible while still exceeding the minimum required by thermodynamics, a figure associated with what is called overpotential.

For a catalyst to facilitate an efficient reaction, it must combine high durability, high catalytic activity, and high surface area. The strength of an element's bond to hydrogen determines its reaction level - too weak, and there's no activity; too strong, and the initial activity poisons the catalyst.

"We needed to create high, stable activity by combining one non-noble element that binds hydrogen too weakly with another that binds too strongly," said James Muckerman, the senior chemist who led the project. "The result becomes this well-balanced Goldilocks compound - just right."

Unfortunately, the strongest traditional candidate for an electrocatlytic Goldilocks comes with a prohibitive price tag.

Problems with platinum

Platinum is the gold standard for electrocatalysis, combining low overpotential with high activity for the chemical reactions in water-splitting. But with rapidly rising costs - already hovering around $50,000 per kilogram - platinum and other noble metals discourage widespread investment.

"People love platinum, but the limited global supply not only drives up price, but casts doubts on its long-term viability," Muckerman said. "There may not be enough of it to support a global hydrogen economy."

In contrast, the principal metals in the new compound developed by the Brookhaven team are both abundant and cheap: $20 per kilogram for nickel and $32 per kilogram for molybdenum. Combined, that's 1000 times less expensive than platinum. But with energy sources, performance is often a more important consideration than price.

Turning nickel into platinum

In this new catalyst, nickel takes the reactive place of platinum, but it lacks a comparable electron density. The scientists needed to identify complementary elements to make nickel a viable substitute, and they introduced metallic molybdenum to enhance its reactivity. While effective, it still couldn't match the performance levels of platinum.

"We needed to introduce another element to alter the electronic states of the nickel-molybdenum, and we knew that nitrogen had been used for bulk materials, or objects larger than one micrometer," said research associate Wei-Fu Chen, the paper's lead author. "But this was difficult for nanoscale materials, with dimensions measuring billionths of a meter."

The scientists expected the applied nitrogen to modify the structure of the nickel-molybdenum, producing discrete, sphere-like nanoparticles. But they discovered something else.

Subjecting the compound to a high-temperature ammonia environment infused the nickel-molybdenum with nitrogen, but it also transformed the particles into unexpected two-dimensional nanosheets. The nanosheet structures offer highly accessible reactive sites - consider the surface area difference between bed sheets laid out flat and those crumpled up into balls - and therefore more reaction potential.

Using a high-resolution transmission microscope in Brookhaven Lab's Condensed Matter Physics and Materials Science Department, as well as x-ray probes at the National Synchrotron Light Source, the scientists determined the material's 2D structure and probed its local electronic configurations.

"Despite the fact that metal nitrides have been extensively used, this is the first example of one forming a nanosheet," Chen said. "Nitrogen made a huge difference - it expanded the lattice of nickel-molybdenum, increased its electron density, made an electronic structure approaching that of noble metals, and prevented corrosion."

Hydrogen future

The new catalyst performs nearly as well as platinum, achieving electrocatalytic activity and stability unmatched by any other non-noble metal compounds. "The production process is both simple and scalable," Muckerman said, "making nickel-molybdenum-nitride appropriate for wide industrial applications."

While this catalyst does not represent a complete solution to the challenge of creating affordable hydrogen gas, it does offer a major reduction in the cost of essential equipment. The team emphasized that the breakthrough emerged through fundamental exploration, which allowed for the surprising discovery of the nanosheet structure.

"Brookhaven Lab has a very active fuel cell and electrocatalysis group," Muckerman said. "We needed to figure out fundamental approaches that could potentially be game-changing, and that's the spirit in which we're doing this work. It's about coming up with a new paradigm that will guide future research."

Additional collaborators on this research were: Anatoly Frenkel of Yeshiva University, Nebojsa Marinkovic of the University of Delaware, and Chao Ma, Yimei Zhu and Radoslav Adzic of Brookhaven Lab.

The research was funded by Brookhaven's Laboratory Directed Research and Development (LDRD) Program. The National Sychrotron Light Source and other Brookhaven user facilities are supported by the DOE Office of Science.

DOE's Office of Science is the single largest supporter of basic research in the physical sciences in the United States, and is working to address some of the most pressing challenges of our time. For more information, please visit science.energy.gov.

####

About Brookhaven National Laboratory
One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven Lab also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE's Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation of State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization. Visit Brookhaven Lab's electronic newsroom for links, news archives, graphics, and more at www.bnl.gov/newsroom , or follow Brookhaven Lab on Twitter, twitter.com/BrookhavenLab .

For more information, please click here

Contacts:
Justin Eure

(631) 344-2347
or
Peter Genzer

(631) 344-3174

Copyright © Brookhaven National Laboratory

If you have a comment, please Contact us.

Issuers of news releases, not 7th Wave, Inc. or Nanotechnology Now, are solely responsible for the accuracy of the content.

Bookmark:
Delicious Digg Newsvine Google Yahoo Reddit Magnoliacom Furl Facebook

Related Links

Scientific Paper: "Hydrogen-Evolution Catalysts Based on Non-Nobel Metal Nickel-Molybdenum Nitride Nanosheets":

Related News Press

News and information

SEFCU, SUNY Poly CNSE Announce Winning Student-Led Teams in the 6th Annual $500,000 New York Business Plan Competition April 25th, 2015

Northwestern scientists develop first liquid nanolaser: Technology could lead to new way of doing 'lab on a chip' medical diagnostics April 25th, 2015

Nanotech-enabled moisturizer speeds healing of diabetic skin wounds: Spherical nucleic acids silence gene that interferes with wound healing April 24th, 2015

Fast and accurate 3-D imaging technique to track optically trapped particles April 24th, 2015

Laboratories

ORNL reports method that takes quantum sensing to new level April 23rd, 2015

Scientists Use Nanoscale Building Blocks and DNA 'Glue' to Shape 3D Superlattices: New approach to designing ordered composite materials for possible energy applications April 23rd, 2015

Drexel materials scientists putting a new spin on computing memory April 22nd, 2015

Phonons, arise! Small electric voltage alters conductivity in key materials April 22nd, 2015

Govt.-Legislation/Regulation/Funding/Policy

SEFCU, SUNY Poly CNSE Announce Winning Student-Led Teams in the 6th Annual $500,000 New York Business Plan Competition April 25th, 2015

Northwestern scientists develop first liquid nanolaser: Technology could lead to new way of doing 'lab on a chip' medical diagnostics April 25th, 2015

ORNL reports method that takes quantum sensing to new level April 23rd, 2015

Electron spin brings order to high entropy alloys April 23rd, 2015

Discoveries

SEFCU, SUNY Poly CNSE Announce Winning Student-Led Teams in the 6th Annual $500,000 New York Business Plan Competition April 25th, 2015

Northwestern scientists develop first liquid nanolaser: Technology could lead to new way of doing 'lab on a chip' medical diagnostics April 25th, 2015

Nanotech-enabled moisturizer speeds healing of diabetic skin wounds: Spherical nucleic acids silence gene that interferes with wound healing April 24th, 2015

Fast and accurate 3-D imaging technique to track optically trapped particles April 24th, 2015

Announcements

SEFCU, SUNY Poly CNSE Announce Winning Student-Led Teams in the 6th Annual $500,000 New York Business Plan Competition April 25th, 2015

Northwestern scientists develop first liquid nanolaser: Technology could lead to new way of doing 'lab on a chip' medical diagnostics April 25th, 2015

Nanotech-enabled moisturizer speeds healing of diabetic skin wounds: Spherical nucleic acids silence gene that interferes with wound healing April 24th, 2015

Fast and accurate 3-D imaging technique to track optically trapped particles April 24th, 2015

Environment

Nanoparticles Used to Improve Mechanical, Thermal Properties of Cellulose Fibers April 23rd, 2015

Young NTU Singapore spin-off clinches S$4.3 million joint venture with Chinese commercial giant March 23rd, 2015

New processing technology converts packing peanuts to battery components March 22nd, 2015

EU Funded PCATDES Project has completed its half-period with success March 19th, 2015

Energy

Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material: KIT scientists measure important process in the conversion of light energy -- publication in Nature Communications April 24th, 2015

Scientists Use Nanoscale Building Blocks and DNA 'Glue' to Shape 3D Superlattices: New approach to designing ordered composite materials for possible energy applications April 23rd, 2015

'Holey' graphene for energy storage: Charged holes in graphene increase energy storage capacity April 22nd, 2015

Expanding the reach of metallic glass April 22nd, 2015

Research partnerships

Pseudoparticles travel through photoactive material: KIT scientists measure important process in the conversion of light energy -- publication in Nature Communications April 24th, 2015

Electron spin brings order to high entropy alloys April 23rd, 2015

Surface matters: Huge reduction of heat conduction observed in flat silicon channels April 23rd, 2015

Drexel materials scientists putting a new spin on computing memory April 22nd, 2015

NanoNews-Digest
The latest news from around the world, FREE




  Premium Products
NanoNews-Custom
Only the news you want to read!
 Learn More
NanoTech-Transfer
University Technology Transfer & Patents
 Learn More
NanoStrategies
Full-service, expert consulting
 Learn More










ASP
Nanotechnology Now Featured Books




NNN

The Hunger Project